Magical New Eclipse Stamp Reveals a Secret Moon When You Touch It


In honor of the upcoming eclipse, the new USPS Forever stamp uses thermochromic ink to offer two stamps in one.

On August 21, our generally unassuming moon will assert her sassy side and block the sun from view, casting a shadow on Earth. The 70-mile wide swath of darkness will sweep the country from Oregon to South Carolina, a trail 2,500 miles long, passing through some 14 states.

Given the rarity of this marvelous spectacle – a total solar eclipse has not occurred on the mainland since 1979; and its path across the entire country will be the first since 1918 – there will be inevitable eclipse-o-mania. And what better way to commemorate it all than with a fancy new postage stamp?

Launched on the summer solstice, of course, the pane of 16 Total Solar Eclipse Forever stamps employs a bit of sorcery by means of thermochromic ink – a first for a U.S. stamp. With the heat of one’s thumb or finger, the darkened shadow of the moon fades to reveal the moon itself; once cool, the shadow returns.

“With the release of these amazing stamps using thermochromic ink, we’ve provided an opportunity for people to experience their own personal solar eclipse every time they touch the stamps,” says Jim Cochrane, Chief Customer and Marketing Officer of the United States Postal Service. The man with no easy task, given the advent of email, continues, “As evidenced by this stamp and other amazing innovations, the Postal Service is enabling a new generation to bridge the gap and tighten the connection between physical mail and the digital world.”

Designed by art director Antonio Alcalá, the stamp features a photo of the total solar eclipse seen from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006. It was shot by retired NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak, one of the world’s leading authorities on total solar eclipses; he has had the incredible good fortune to have seen 27 of them so far.

“I’m honored to have my images on this unique stamp. But more importantly, the stamp will spread the news about America’s great eclipse to many more people than I could ever reach,” says Espenak. “A total eclipse of the Sun is simply the most beautiful, stunning and awe-inspiring astronomical event you can see with the naked eye.”

And while so many of us won’t have the chance to catch this in person, we can at least have the next best thing – a collection of 16 mini eclipses which will perpetually occur at the touch of a finger. Is a fancy stamp using high-tech ink very green? One could easily argue that email is more sustainable; but an issuance of novel postage stamps seems a small price to pay for shining a light on the wonder of the heavens and instilling a little awe of nature.